Since erupting on the scene with its debut album, Kill ’Em All, in 1983, Metallica has been a cutting-edge band – the standard by which metal’s vitality and virtuosity are measured. The group formed in 1981 around the core of singer-guitarist James Hetﬁeld and drummer Lars Ulrich, who both lived in Los Angeles. The pair bonded over their mutual love of metal – especially the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal.” Metallica’s ﬁrst lineup also included guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist Ron McGovney. Their ﬁrst release was a seven-song tape, No Life ’til Leather. After slogging it out on the L.A. scene for two years, Metallica relocated to San Francisco. With a revamped lineup that included bassist Cliff Burton and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, they cut their ﬁrst full-length album. Kill ’Em All was one of heavy-metal’s most signiﬁcant debuts, helping to establish the thrash-metal sound in America. It also revealed the group’s obsession with themes of death, destruction and the darker realms of the human psyche.
Metallica followed Kill ’Em All with Ride the Lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986). The latter album proved to be another pinnacle, exhibiting considerable ambition and intensity. But a headlining tour of Europe ended in tragedy when Metallica’s tour bus ran off an icy road in Sweden. Bassist Burton was killed instantly. Metallica recruited Jason Newsted as Burton’s replacement. It took the band a full year to record ...And Justice for All, a pulverizing double-album showcase of lyrical rage, intricate arrangements and expert musicianship.
Metallica’s next album, simply titled Metallica, entered the album chart at Number One and stayed there for four weeks. The album has sold more than 14 million copies in the U.S. alone. It also introduced Metallica to the Top 40 with the singles “Enter Sandman” (Number 16), “Nothing Else Matters” (Number 34) and “The Unforgiven” (Number 35). “Everyone has one album when everything comes together,” said Ulrich of Metallica, which was released in 1991. “This was ours.”
Metallica ended the decade as the biggest-selling rock act of the Nineties. At the beginning of the new millennium, as the band worked on a new album, St. Anger, longtime bassist Jason Newsted left the group and was replaced by Robert Trujillo. St. Anger became Metallica’s fourth Number One album, sold two million copies and won the group a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. Over the course of three decades, Metallica has conquered the world, selling over 100 million albums and playing for millions in concert all over the world. Metallica was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
This 1992 ESP Explorer is the second ESP guitar that James Hetfield owned. He inscribed the epithet “So F%!#ing What” on the body with a marker. This guitar was used on the Black tour.view artifact
This custom-built 1996 ESP Wavecaster guitar features a semi-hollow acrylic body filled with water and blue-colored oil. Kirk Hammett used this guitar on Metallica’s Load and Reload tours.view artifact
Robert Trujillo used this 2002 Music Man Sting Ray 5 bass when he auditioned for Metallica on November 26, 2002. He borrowed this guitar from the band’s bank of instruments because he had shown up for the audition without a bass. Trujillo had previously played with L.A. hardcore punk legends Suicidal Tendencies.view artifact